MEDIA RELEASE: A sigh of relief

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composite photo of Dr. Harold Kim on the left side, and Joel getting his vaccination from a nurse on the right

London, Ontario– Like so many people with serious health conditions, Joel McLaughlin lived in fear of contracting COVID-19. Yet, he was also terrified of what it would take to properly protect himself – the vaccine. 

At 17, Joel has spent a lifetime in an out of hospital battling asthma, pneumonia and numerous allergies so serious a mere touch could trigger a dangerous reaction. As a youngster, Joel had a severe reaction to a flu shot and, two years ago, he landed in hospital with an allergic reaction to a virus. The actual source of both reactions has not been determined. 

“So when it came to COVID, we couldn’t take any chances,” says Joel’s mom, Carrie. “We went into lockdown. With Joel’s asthma and a possible allergic reaction to the virus itself, we couldn’t risk it.”

But when the vaccine became available, new fears arose. 

“We don’t take chances when it comes to any kind of shot,” says Carrie. “And yet we knew the COVID-19 vaccine was essential for Joel. He wanted to get the shot but it had to be done carefully and safely.”

The Allergy Clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital has answered that call – for Joel and many others. The clinic is one of few in the province providing the vaccine to patients who may be allergic to a component of the vaccine or have reacted to the first vaccine dosing, explains Dr. Harold Kim, Medical Director of St. Joseph’s Allergy and Immunology Program and Chair/Chief, Clinical Immunology and Allergy in London. 
“With a referral, anyone with a suspected allergy to the vaccine is assessed to decide whether we would give it in our clinic or if they can receive it in a normal vaccination clinic,” says Dr. Kim.

At St. Joseph’s, patients receive the COVID-19 vaccine in small and gradually larger doses over a period of time and are monitored closely for signs of reaction. By the end of their visit, they will have received the full dose.  

Without the clinic’s cautious approach, says Dr. Kim, many patients would not be getting the vaccine due to fear of a reaction.
“We have also likely prevented severe reactions with the protocol used at our clinic.”

Joel received the first dose of the vaccine in segments at St. Joseph’s without any issue. He received his second dose in one shot at the clinic on Aug. 4 and now looks forward to resuming a more normal life – attending school, playing hockey and getting a part time job. 

“It’s a big sigh of relief for me,” says the Corunna teen about being able to safely receive the vaccine. “It has been scary thinking about what the outcome would be if I got COVID and if I could never receive the vaccine.” Read Joel’s full story.

The clinic has been equally a positive experience for staff, says nurse Christina Attard-Kennel.

“Many of us were redeployed to assessment centres at the start of COVID-19 and we talked about the hope for a vaccine. We are now part of helping patients receive it and are seeing the burden of the pandemic lifting. We have come full circle. It’s very satisfying.”

For more information, please contact: 

Dahlia Reich
Communication & Public Affairs         
St. Joseph’s Health Care London                        
(519) 646-6100 ext. 65294, pager 10117            

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